Reach for Excellence

Understand Work Styles to Better Manage Employees

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,

and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

April 19, 2017

Organizations aren’t getting the performance they need from their teams, according to Suzanne M. Johnson Vickberg and Kim Christfort, the authors of “Pioneers, Drivers, Integrators and Guardians.” The authors detail in the Harvard Business Review a system of understanding work styles developed by Deloitte that they feel may help you better serve–and get more out of–your employees.

Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry to help you get the best performance from your team. This system identifies four primary work styles: pioneers, guardians, drivers and integrators.

Here’s how Deloitte defines each of these styles:

Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking, and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.

Guardians value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.

Drivers value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white, and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.

Integrators value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.”

Here’s how Deloitte came up with these styles. They started with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, of Rutgers University. Her research focused on brain chemistry in people’s styles and interactions. From that data, a list of business-relevant traits and preferences that can be observed, or inferred, from behavior at work was created.

Then, an assessment was developed, tested and refined with three independent samples of more than 1,000 professionals each. Next, a collaboration with molecular biologist Lee Silver, of Princeton, adapted the statistical models he uses for genetic population analysis to look for patterns in the business population data. From those patterns were derived the four work styles.

But it didn’t stop there. Over 190,000 people completed the assessment. Follow-up studies were conducted to determine:

1)    How each work style responds to stress
2)    The conditions under which the various styles thrive
3)    Other factors that inform how to manage the styles effectively

Then, over 3,000 “labs”—interactive sessions lasting 90 minutes to three days— were conducted to gather more data and explore strategies and techniques for maximizing the different work styles.

And that takes us to the key question: How can you use this information in your practice to most effectively manage your team?

The first step is to identify the primary work style of each person in your practice. Make a list of everyone in the practice, then assign each person a primary style from the chart below. If you do this in an office meeting, everyone can have input to make sure you are getting the correct style for each person. The key to this exercise is to work from what each person is, not what they want to be.

Now that you know what each person is, the next step is to understand what energizes them and what alienates them. This next chart summarizes that information nicely.

Knowing the personal style of each team member, and what energizes and alienates them, we now have the foundation to understand how to best manage them. There are two techniques to employ to effectively manage your team. You must learn to pull your opposites closer and elevate the minority work styles on your team.

Pull Your Opposites Closer
Let’s start with pulling your opposites closer. Opposites often collide. The opposites are: (1) Guardians and Pioneers and (2) Integrators and Drivers. Managed correctly, the opposites can balance each other out. Managed incorrectly, opposites can cause intra-office, interpersonal, high-level stress.

Let’s consider a Guardian-Pioneer team working on a presentation together. Pioneers will be quite comfortable speaking spontaneously in front of a group while Guardians need time for thorough preparation. The Pioneer feels impatience at the Guardian’s need for extra time for preparation. Simultaneously, the Guardian feels alarmed at the Pioneer’s lack of preparation. Without proper management this team is going to generate a lot of stress.

The technique of pulling your opposites closer starts by having the opposites on a team create a plan to use each person’s strengths most effectively during the project. This also involves recognizing each person’s weaknesses, and how the strengths of another person can help support each person on the team. Each person must understand that we can use our strengths to attack another person’s weaknesses – which will drive us apart and cause problems – or, because of our weaknesses, we need another person’s strengths to help us to be most effective – which will draw us closer together as a team.

Pulling your opposites closer not only results in a more productive team; it also results in a more balanced team.

Elevate the Minority Work Styles on Your Team
What leadership style should you favor in your practice? If your practice is primarily made up of Guardians, you might conclude that a leadership style favoring Guardians of the best. There is a better way. It’s better to focus on the minority than the majority to reap the benefits of the diversity of your team.

Favoring the majority often leads to cognitive bias which often leads to “cascades.” Cascades occur in a team once ideas begin flowing, and momentum begins to build behind them. Even though diverse opinions may exist, people hesitate voicing differing opinions to ideas that have early visible support. When cascades occur, you end up with group-think and self-censoring, which does not help the team.

Introversion and sensitivity occurs most among Guardians, but these traits also occur in a subset of Integrators called Quiet Integrators. Sensitive introverts tend not to be heard unless leaders reach out to them. When a team leans in a direction, Quiet Integrators are non-confrontational, and focused on consensus, so are unlikely to offer a divergent perspective.

So, how do you elevate minority perspectives to avoid cascades without alienating other team members? Here are tactics that you can use:

•    Give Guardians time prepare for a discussion or decision. Permit them to contribute in ways that are comfortable for them (e.g.: in writing). Don’t require them to “fight for the floor” in a meeting. Instead, welcome them into the conversation, making sure the others in the room are quiet and respectful while they speak.

•    Utilize white boards and other tools to allow room for discussions to get expansive which Pioneers will love, but determine in advance how long you’ll allow such discussions to go on so that Guardians will have comfort in the structure.

•    Ask Integrators for their thoughts, and explore with them how the discussion or decision affects the greater good. If you do this before the meeting you may prevent Drivers from being frustrated with what they would see as time-consuming, non-focused discussion.

•    Drivers like brisk conversation, clear connections between the discussion and decision at hand, and progress toward the overall goal, therefore, manage the meeting for Drivers by showing progress throughout the meeting.

•    If your team is light on a certain style, then ask the entire team to think like that style. If your practice is light on Drivers, state to the group “If we were viewing this decision from a Driver’s perspective …” you will enrich a discussion that may have been just one dimensional.

If you want to take this information to the next level, then apply it to the patients coming into your practice. Every patient can be placed into one of these four styles.

Knowing the patient’s style will help you to better communicate with them, and therefore, better be able to help them improve their quality of life by helping them complete their prescribed treatment plan.


Harvard Business Review: “The New Science of Team Chemistry”





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